How did Pseudoscience Conquer War Tourism in BiH?


Author: Merima Uštović-Kapetanović  

Until 2005 most tourists were coming in Bosnia and Herzegovina to see what did war do to Bosnia and Hercegovina, to see some of natural history that was not devastated during the war or did not become a mine field. That was until Semir Sam Osmanagić acknowledged that in Visoko, small city in central part of Bosnia and Hercegovina, exists ancient pyramid. He made through worldwide headlines in 2005 and he made Visoko a big tourist site. 

Before pyramids, Visoko valley was known, by history students, as an early center of Bosnian medieval state, and for the fact that near Visoko in place called Mile, according some historians, first Bosnian King was crowned. Also on the Visočica hill is archeological site of medieval Bosnian town called Visoki.  For most people, Visoko was famous for its meat products. What changed with pyramids?

Are there any pyramids in Bosnia?

Semir with volunteers from different states made effort to find proofs that the Visočica hill is man-made: a pyramid that looks like ancient pyramids. When he constructed a hypothesis that there are more of them in the Visoko valley, and that those pyramids were built maybe in same time like those in Egypt or even before, the whole academic community in Bosnia finally made some common language. All of them – and the loudest were professors from Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo – said that he was speaking nonsense and that he needed stop. That lasted for years, and when the author of this article was a student of History in Sarajevo (now a graduated Historian), on first lectures the students were warned that if they believed in rubbish that Semir is setting as hypotheses, and if they ever said anything that confirms those hypotheses, they needed to take their documents and go to another faculty, or maybe to a mental institution. Every historian, or any scientist really, to be acknowledged as a scientist, needs to make a recognized work, make hypotheses and defend them. Semir didn’t respected protocol, and he claimed his hypothesis in other ways. 


Big thing for small businesses

With his big project of Pyramid valley, came other project. To protect Bosnian claimed history from pseudoscience; Commission to Preserve National Monuments reconstructed old town Visoki and archeological site of Mile. At the same time, innovative people from Visoko who had seen that profit is coming alongside with pyramids, did their work and started making pyramids a known fact in Visoko. While academic community was trying to stop this pseudoscientist to promote Bosnia as a Pyramid valley and not only the Sniper alley, Semir was known guest on History Channel where he with other non-standard, self-claimed or real-time scientists was promoting Bosnian pyramid as a real thing. And the tourists were coming. Every year more tourists were in Visoko, bumping on old roads to see that new miracle in Bosnia, miracle that is not connected with the question: How to survive in the most corrupted country and stay normal? People in Visoko are trying their best to survive and to hold their pyramids as a source of economical stability. While the biggest factories from Visoko are struggling with bankruptcy, Semir’s pyramids are rising together with Visoko small businesses.

Healing and celebrity hot spot

Now, in Bosnian Pyramid Valley we have more of pseudoscience, much more than in the beginning of this pyramid journey. It is a healing point, where you can meditate as well as get bioenergy from the energy spots and many more things connected with holistic medicine which in medicine do not have defendable hypotheses. And people are buying it, people are coming, Visoko has a great economical income from tourism, entrepreneurship flourishes. That income is better than that from big factories which are hardly surviving because of the lousy state, the state where academics are in silence when tycoons are destroying natural goods.

When Mexican author Roberto Salinas Price said that ancient Troy is in Gabela near Stolac, town in south part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the academic community did not ever consider his conclusions. He died claiming that Troy is in Gabela. It helped to find Troy in Hisarlik, Turkey, only because he was so passionate to defend his hypothesis, so in some ways, academic community needed to show the opposite. As for Semir’s pyramids, it helped to restore some medieval archeological sites by interference of the academic community. This happened only to show that it doesn’t stand with pseudoscience, and this was great for Bosnian cultural heritage. What is also great? One of the best tennis players on the world Novak Đoković comes to Visoko to refill his batteries in Valley of Pyramids. And he is showing the world what diversity is present in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When Novak loves it, when thousands of tourists enjoy it, why is it so hard to accept it and enjoy the fruits of pseudoscience?